This week, we turn to the final drama of our series — the samurai rebellions that will break out in final defense of 1000 years of samurai tradition. As the group of leaders who had overthrown the Tokugawa becomes ever smaller, the final course of Japan will be set. From this point on, what the new Japan will look like will be clear.

Listen to the episode here.


Drea, Edward. Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853-1945.

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Ravina, Mark. The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori.



Okubo Toshimichi of Satsuma was one of Japan’s most prolific Westernizers; by the time this photo was taken in 1876 he’d completely absorbed a Western style of comportment and dress.


Saga Castle, site of the last stand of Eto Shimpei’s Saga Rebellion. This photo is from the 1880s, but the damage to the exterior from the fighting is still visible.


Eto Shimpei’s famous post-decapitation photo. That’s no way to…get ahead in life. If only he’d…kept his head under pressure.


The Shimpuren rebellion, which broke out in the old Choshu capitol of Hagi, was one of a series of minor rebellions spread through 1875-76.


Saigo Takamori’s Satsuma Rebellion was the last and largest challenge to Meiji rule. In this Battle of Tabarazuka, he was yet again defeated during the long retreat to Kagoshima.


The Battle of Shiroyama, Saigo’s famous last stand. His death represented the end of real challenges to government authority.